I had the pleasure of reviewing the CAO Amazon Anaconda a while back. In said review I really enjoyed the whole wordplay involving the CAO promotional copy, in which they dubbed Ernest Gocaj the “Indiana Jones” of tobacco, creating parallels between the movies. I seem to recall saying something about how the film series was only a trilogy, and that the fourth release was garbage and I refused to acknowledge its existence. Well, despite the Amazon Basin having been billed as a trilogy to begin with, we now have a fourth release—the fourth part of the trilogy. Yep.
According to CAO:
Orellana is named in tribute to Francisco Orellana, the first European explorer to navigate the entire Amazon river.
I got this cigar right around the holiday formerly known as Columbus Day. Given that we are now a more enlightened society and celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day, I pondered if it was, at the very least, in poor timing to celebrate something that is perhaps not considered politically correct these days. Personally, being neither Italian nor indigenous (or Spanish/Brazilian, for that matter), I have no horse in this race, but I do think it’s kind of silly to celebrate “discovering” an inhabited continent. Just because you took a new route to work and came across a McDonald’s that you didn’t know was there doesn’t mean you discovered it. Anyhoo, I digress. Let’s continue.
Long before the Amazon series debuted in 2014, a rich Brazilian wrapper aged patiently, waiting to be brought out from the shadows. This is the wrapper that adorns CAO Orellana and it’s called Cubra.
The sungrown Cubra was raised in a microclimate of Eastern Brazil’s fertile Bahia region. There, a collective of local farmers worked with CAO’s agronomists to yield lustrous leaves that are inherently sweet, strong and versatile for blending. Only the highest primings of Cubra were selected for cutting in climate-controlled curing barns in Calfriza, where the wrapper’s deep red hue and natural sweetness further developed.
Rick Rodriguez said, “When I found the bales of Cubra, I knew that I wanted to blend it with some of the tobaccos from the previous Amazon releases. Hands down, Cubra wrapper was one of the best tobaccos I’ve ever used in blending. It has that Havano flavor with a little bit sweetness and it pairs really well with other tobaccos. I think Orellana is going to be a big hit with the fans of CAO.”
Interestingly, there’s no mention of the Indiana Jones of tobacco this time. The main thing I think of here is how they had this wrapper “long before the Amazon series debuted.” Yet, when Rick found it he wanted to “blend it with the tobaccos from the previous Amazon releases.” Have these guys invented time travel? Because this seems like some sort of time paradox to me. Maybe Rick Rodrigues is the Marty McFly of tobacco.
CAO Orellana Breakdown
- Wrapper: Brazilian Cubra
- Binder: Nicaragua
- Filler: Colombia | Dominican Republic | Brazil (Bragança | Fuma em Corda)
- Factory: STG Estelí (Nicaragua)
- Production: Limited
- Vitola: 6″ × 52 (Toro)
- Price: $10.99 (MSRP)
Each additional Amazon release has incorporated new Brazilian tobaccos to compliment the raw Bragança tobacco used in each Amazon cigar. With Orellana, the leaf is now complimented by a sun-grown Cuban-seed tobacco from Eastern Brazil’s fertile Bahia region. This leaf—said to be aged more than five years—is known as Cubra, being incorporated as the cigar’s wrapper ingredient. CAO Orellana is billed as a full-bodied release, pairing the high-priming Cubra wrapper with a Nicaraguan binder and fillers of Colombia, Brazil (Bragança), and the Dominican Republic.
First thing’s first, the obvious, twisted leaf barber pole thing—it’s cool. I dig it quite a bit. It gives the overall look of the cigar some cohesion; because, quite frankly, it’s kind of an ugly cigar. There are huge veins on the dusty, rosado-colored wrapper. There are massive lumps and bumps beneath the wrapper. The cigar is not straight (ironically being, most likely, due to the twisted leaf band). The double cap has some large flaps—sloppy. Now, when you take all that and wrap it in the nifty little rope thing, well, that rug really ties the room together. The twisting tobacco twine is in two (three?) sections. The first begins at the foot and makes three rotations until it slips under the wrapper near the middle of the cigar. Above that is the band, which is kind of like a double band this time around. There are two to three rotations, an additional winding upwards, and another two to three rotations. It looks cool, and that’s all there is to it.
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There’s not a ton of strong scent from the wrapper. I struggle to pick up some barnyard and perhaps a hint of chocolate. It’s kind of an overall mildly earthy aroma. The foot presents a huge natural tobacco scent, with some underlying cayenne pepper. The tobacco aroma is what I imagine a tobacco-scented candle would smell like. Beginning with some cinnamon candy, the cold draw is incredibly floral and lightly fruity. It kind of reminds me of saltwater taffy. The hint of chocolate becomes more of a buttery sweet soufflé. The airflow is just a little too easy, but otherwise I’m feeling pretty open to what this cigar could bring.
The first impression is that of a spicy, fresh pepper, with more of that floral note that is almost soapy. A bit of punch through the retrohale kind of overrides the palate, obscuring the fleeting glimpse of something savory that I couldn’t quite catch. There’s not a whole lot going on in the first third. The spiciness mellows out, but picks up a citric acid brightness that rounds it out. As the floral note competes with the earth for dominance, the chocolate is just there, and both play well with zesty spice. But there’s not a lot happening in the way of transitions or complexity at this point.
The second third has me wondering about the twine. I assume it’s the same leaf as the wrapper itself, but I really don’t know. Getting near the point where the bottom portion disappears under the wrapper seam, it’ll be interesting to note any change in flavor. Everything kind of melds to become a spicy tamarindo candy flavor—tart, earthy, spicy, with an emergence of some sweetness. But there still isn’t a whole lot happening. I get a mildly salty pop on the retrohale at one point, which has me hoping for some savory goodness to appear. I liked the Anaconda release quite a bit, as well as the Fuma Em Corda, but this one just isn’t hitting the same. One thing I can say it that this cigar has had a phenomenal draw, with a slightly wavy but otherwise great burn.
The tamarindo candy is picking up steam, and it’s getting fruitier with some added light-roast coffee tannins. A bit of creaminess appears, and the cigar is getting better. Oddly, it seems to be smoking in reverse; I’d expect a cigar to start out creamy and sweet and trend more toward earth at the latter stages. It’s a shame that it waited until the final third to wake up and become interesting. Approaching the twine band, I begin feeling some nicotine jitters. Hints of baker’s cocoa powder mix and mingle with a jingling beat alongside some baker’s spice: nutmeg, anise, and cinnamon. There’s a deep, bold California cabernet and strong oak flavor that seems to have come out of nowhere. Unlike previous releases of this cigar, where I found myself wanting to remove the twine band (it seemed to be a little bitter), Orellana’s band seems to be adding to the profile. Once the band has burned away, it reverts to the earthy flavors from the beginning, although the remnants of the oaky wine remain. And then my palate gets smashed with a plastic bitterness and this toro is done.
Would I Smoke This Cigar Again?
I wouldn’t give it back if someone gave it to me, but it’s not the cigar I would choose out of the Amazon Basin line. I didn’t dislike it, and it certainly had its moments—particularly in the final third—but it didn’t wow me.
- Flavor: Medium-plus
- Strength: Medium-plus
- Body: Medium-plus
- Earth and floral
- Tamarindo candy
- Cocoa and baker’s spice
- Heavy oak cabernet
- Smoke Time: 1 hour, 46 minutes
- Pairing Recommendation: Whatever you want—your drink is going to be more interesting than the cigar
- Purchase Recommendation: Skip this one for anything in the OG Amazon Basin trilogy
- The leaf/twine/cord/rope ornament the cigar sports is fun
- The draw was perfect
- Interesting final third
- Intensely distasteful final moments
- First two thirds are boring and earthy
- Sloppy looking construction